From bamboo to sisal, all-natural raw materials replace plastic offering an alternative to everyday products that already exist
nudo: an eco-friendly sensibility to the mainstream through nature made necessities
Launched in the fall 2020, nudo is an Italian beauty brand providing personal hygiene products that are 100% natural, vegan, plastic-free and affordable. The Milan-based company, financed and supported by Italian merchandise agency Solutions Group, advocates the use of raw biodegradable materials made from fast-growing plants found in the subtropical and tropical regions of the world. This extends to nudo’s packaging in which recyclable tracing paper is used to give its products a clear appearance. German entrepreneur and founder Marijam Bieber talks about the origins of the brand over a call with corporate social responsibility manager Manuel Xueref, «Back in 2019, I was living in Rome and looking for alternatives at typical places like the eco-supermarkets, but they were very expensive. There are natural products but if you look deeper into them, there were little hidden plastic layers to make it softer or smoother, or they were packaged in plastic so there wasn’t a lot to offer in terms of natural, sustainable products with true low impact. I felt the need to change something and make them a bit more mainstream». Today, the company’s products are available to purchase online across Europe, strengthened by a new partnership with German beauty retailer Douglas, with plans to expand across the world.
The brand’s current ten product offering was clear to Bieber from the beginning. Everyday objects designed with beauty, health and the environment in mind under the values of inclusivity, transparency and accessibility. Bamboo, for example, has been used for toothbrushes made in both adult and child sizes, a comb, cotton buds, laundry clips and a nail brush featuring bristles made from sisal, a fiber from the leaves of the Agave Sisalana plant. Alongside a branded shopper made of red recycled cotton, nudo has also created a category for the skin consisting of a konjac sponge enriched with charcoal powder, reusable cotton makeup remover pads, a loofah and cotton pad to scrub the body and a two-in-one detox solid face cleanser formulated with almond oil and peach blossom extract, the only of their products that’s 100% made in Italy. Due to its natural provenance, cost and the required infrastructure and vegetation necessary to produce their items, the majority of their raw materials are sourced from and manufactured across China, where the climate is also warmer and more humid than Europe, which facilitates the plant’s growth. Each item’s country origin is stated on its packaging.
Beauty products without plastic
An aspect that mattered to nudo was to be completely devoid of any use of plastics, which falls under their environmental policy as a company. «For the product to be certified plastic free, we analyze the materials used in the factories to make sure. With the makeup remover pads, there are competitors who make them out of bamboo. We thought of doing the same but realized that through the manufacturing process, an element of polyester is included to create the bamboo fiber in the textile industry. It’s such a small amount that by law, people are not required to report it, but we didn’t want to use that and shifted to cotton, though it requires a lot of water», Bieber explains of their stance on the regulations towards their materials and the decisions they make for their products. Boar bristles, which are used in the industry for brushes, were substituted with a vegan alternative of sisal, rather than the standard alternative of nylon or polyester. «We found a way to shift it to a vegan solution that isn’t plastic or animal derived and does the same thing. The only alternative we did not find was for toothbrushes which have bristles made out of bio-based nylon, as sisal would be too hard on your gums», Xueref adds. To ensure a carbon footprint as low as possible on the detail, the selected bio-based nylon is one of the most expensive nylons to produce due to its eco-friendlier manufacturing process in comparison to the common petrol-based nylon.
Reducing a products carbon footprint
nudo follows a policy to never use airfreights for transport, only shipping via trucks, train rails or sea to ensure that the lifecycle of their products have a reduced carbon footprint. This applies in particular to their bamboo products, which make up more than half of their offering and are made of the highly CO2 absorbent Moso bamboo. Sourced from the Shenzhen and Ningbo provinces, the raw material has a relatively short agricultural period due to its fast-growing nature and is harvestable after three to four years. Across all products, the average production period for them to reach Milan after harvest takes around ninety to one hundred and twenty days, a choice made by the company to maintain a lower carbon footprint. The company is currently looking into shipping options via the transatlantic railway that runs from the North of China directly to Europe, «the most eco-friendly transportation we’re going to use in the future» according to Xueref. Policies in their Milan office follow a similarly low carbon footprint principle through the use of hybrids and new technology. The heating and cooling systems are all new and changed this year. Recycling bins are divided and collected by a third-party company on a monthly basis who also ensures that all their trash is responsibly managed on a waste basis. A report is then provided at the end of the month on the kilos of different materials that have been recycled.
nudo production system
On the selection process for the factories they partner with, expertise is of concern alongside its environmental, ethical and labor policies, Xueref adds, «for our bamboo products, we select factories who work with and manufacture bamboo on a regular basis. For the other items like sisal, we work with companies that manufacture for multinationals such as L’Oreal, LVMH through Solutions group. From the plantations the materials go via trucks to the factories where they are produced and manufactured and then shipped via railway or sea. The whole product is finished, including the paper for the packaging, and assembled in China». The impact of activities and processes of their manufacturing partners are also held accountable through the support of Solutions groups who have their own audit in affiliation with certifying body Intertek and the L’Oreal audit to verify good working standards and freedom of associations across the factories. «We make sure that all the factories we use are the same ones used by these big players who have audited and investigated them to ensure the whole supply chain is as clean and fair as possible. In deciding these factories, when we requested these certifications, we knew they already had them, and these are renewed on a yearly basis. On top of that, we use Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) certifications, which have whole sections that evaluate them under environmental policies, water and waste management. We also supply a self-assessment questionnaire that asks them about all these policies they have in place which are certified with the BSCI certifications or audits. We make them sign a supplier code of conduct and have on-site audits through Solutions group with production managers that go and control the factories themselves», Xueref finishes. For the production of their face soap bars in Italy, nudo works with small artisanal companies near Milan and analyses the practices and processes themselves. The recycled cotton for the shopper is purchased directly from an importer who sources it from India to Europe and is Global Organic Textile Standard certified.
Organic and recyclable packaging
nudo is also Ecovadis-certified to verify their environmental and labour policies, ethics and sustainable procurements are holistic across company processes, as well as ISO 14001 managed. In addition, they work with US certification body Social Accountability International to attain the SA80000 standard which assesses the ethical standards within the company and labour workforce. These certifications are available across their website but kept off packaging for stylistic reasons to ensure minimalism. «We do write eco-friendly and vegan on the packaging but we don’t want to use too many logos and crowd the packaging. We try to keep it as simple as possible because the final goal of nudo is to bring eco-friendly products to the mainstream with an accessible price. The fact that we want the product to look good was one of the elements we looked out for and crowding it with too many logos, information and explanations would be removing from the design purpose», Xueref explains. Recycled tracing paper is used for the packaging and took the longest to research. Wanting to create a product that was more modern and stylish in design, Marijam initially struggled to find a plastic-free material that could attract new targets outside of those already eco-conscious, «I was thinking of using glass but then I figured out it has a huge CO2 footprint during shipping. Then I found this transparent paper that architects use––my dad is an architect so I’ve seen him use it––and we decided to go with that because it’s still paper, but you can see through to the products, so it has this plastic effect». From the stickers and the packaging to the products inside and the cartons used to ship them, all of nudo’s items are made out of organic materials, making them recyclable and biodegradable to blend back with nature over time.
Mainstream eco-friendly products
For nudo, long production times with processes that require heavy research and are more cost-intensive are worth the challenge as a young company if it means they can provide natural alternatives to a wider audience. They are not creating new products. Their goal is to «bring a sensibility to people to shift these items necessary for self-hygiene to products that don’t have a plastic component so it can be thrown away without a negative impact». Marijam concludes on her hopes for the future of nudo: «There’s so much potential everywhere because the whole world is not very eco-friendly and it’s all these disposable products used every day that are made of plastic. We would never say we are sustainable because we’re producing and part of the economy. We try to keep our products clean, so this is one part of our impact. Our goal is to grow, raise awareness and enter other industries and sectors».
Based in Milan, nudo offers select body care products made from 100% natural, plastic-free and vegan raw materials. From bamboo toothbrushes to reusable cotton makeup pads, their products can be found online and on retail partner Douglas across Europe.
The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article.